Washington, DC -
12/23/2010 - Mike Matz, director of the Campaign for America's Wilderness of the Pew Environment Group, today issued the following statement in response to the Obama administration’s new policy to better inventory and plan protection for Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands in the West and Alaska.
“Secretary Salazar’s policy pronouncement today affirms the Bureau of Land Management’s ability–and responsibility–to conduct rigorous inventories and fairly assess the value of our public wild lands.
“This improvement in determining which wild lands have important wilderness values and merit interim protection until Congress has the chance to make final decisions is a long time coming. While Congress ultimately decides what is or is not included in the National Wilderness Preservation System, members of Congress benefit from the analysis of field experts in BLM, and the process affords public review and participation.
“The policy is a win-win-win for Congress, the agency and the people who live in towns and cities near these important landscapes. It is in everyone’s interest for members of Congress to have better information based on sounder science and analysis, including inventorying the full value of these lands. The agency gets the benefit of updating resource plans and taking into consideration all resource values, including wilderness protection. And local residents can offer guidance on which wild lands are important to protect for the betterment of their communities, the protection of local water supplies and air quality, and continued opportunities for hunting, fishing, hiking and other recreational pursuits.
“Clearly, BLM has a lot more work to do to review the land it administers on behalf of all Americans, and to make recommendations to Congress on which additional landscapes merit further protection. We welcome this policy as it will help ensure BLM can better assess the lands it manages and safeguard wilderness-quality landscapes.”
Background: BLM manages 256 million acres of land in the contiguous 48 states and Alaska. There are currently 12.9 million acres protected as Wilderness Study Areas, managed to protect their wilderness character -- including ecological, scenic, recreational, educational and scientific values --until Congress has the chance to decide whether or not these places warrant inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System. The administration’s new policy promises that the full value of additional wild lands will be given better, fairer review.